Mayors’ Council Submission to the BC Budget 2024 Consultation
May 31, 2023
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is one of ten permanent parliamentary committees of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Each year, the committee holds province-wide consultations to seek the views of British Columbians on priorities for the next provincial budget and presents a final report with recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. The following submission was made by Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, Chair of the TransLink Mayors’ Council, in May 2023.
- That the Government of BC continue to work with TransLink and the Mayors’ Council to secure the funding required to begin expanding the transit system in mid-2024 to accommodate rising ridership and over-crowding on our system today, and ready the region for record-setting population growth and to meet provincial affordability and climate action objectives.
- Metro Vancouver is expected to grow by 50,000 people per year and by over one million by 2050. That is like adding a City of North Vancouver every year to our already crowded region. Our job as government – local, provincial, and federal – is to plan for and support this growth so that current and future residents alike benefit and succeed.
- Many of Canada’s most pressing challenges – from climate change to housing affordability to immigrant settlement to innovation – depend on vibrant, successful public transit systems in our largest cities including Metro Vancouver.
- Fortunately, the Mayors’ Council has a plan to meet these challenges and prepare our region for the future. The Access for Everyone plan (Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities) will double bus service over the next decade. It will add nine new Bus Rapid Transit corridors, bringing rapid transit level of service to communities that have never imagined rapid transit was a near-term potential. It will provide us with the transit network our region needs to thrive as it adds thousands of new residents every month. And it is designed to be rolled out quickly, with more modest improvements to our bus network to start, while we secure the new revenues required to complete the rest.
- This is a critical point to invest in Metro Vancouver’s immediate and long-term transit needs to keep people moving through the region. Which is why the announcement by the Premier in March that the province will provide $468 million in funding to stabilize TransLink’s finances was so timely and important. This funding gave us and the province the time we need over the next year to come up with the funding needed to begin rolling out the new transit services outlined in the Access for Everyone plan starting in mid-2024.
- That the Government of British Columbia support the Mayors’ Council’s recommendation to the Government of Canada to accelerate the Permanent Transit Fund (PTF) by two years from the original commitment of 2026/27 to 2024/25 to avoid delaying the transit service expansion needed starting in 2024 to meet national and provincial GHG emission targets, respond to the affordability crisis and serve quickly growing ridership.
- Our Access for Everyone (Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities) plan takes a “bus-first” approach with an historic investment to more than double local bus service and build approximately 170 km of rapid transit, as well as initiating planning for additional rapid transit corridors across the region, including on the North Shore, the Tri-Cities and Surrey.
- The first step in implementing the Access for Everyone planwill be the approval of the first phase of projects in mid-2024. Since TransLink has already allocated existing federal infrastructure funding sources to projects already in service, in procurement or under construction, and with the Permanent Transit Fund currently scheduled to begin in 2026, this leaves a gap where no other new source of federal funding has been identified to support transit expansion in Metro Vancouver.
- By accelerating the PTF to begin in 2024, the Government of Canada has an opportunity to ensure TransLink and other transit agencies are able to continue adding services to meet public demand and avoid delaying new projects that have been identified as a priority. This commitment will help TransLink to get started on implementing the first phase of its Access for Everyone plan. With ambitious plans to make unprecedented expansion to bus service and build out one of North America’s largest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) networks in the coming years, it is imperative that we get started now to identify sustainable sources of funding that will support future expansion.
- The Mayors’ Council has been actively advocating to the federal government to make this commitment in its 2024 Budget. It is important that the Government of Canada hears and sees that the Government of B.C. is already committed to and supporting the quick delivery of the Access for Everyone plan beginning in mid-2024, and expects a federal matching contribution.
- That the Government of British Columbia support the Mayors’ Council’s recommendation to the federal government to launch a tri-partite national commission together with provinces and transit agencies to develop a new funding model for public transit that is more resilient and equitable by avoiding overreliance on regressive sources such as transit fares and property taxes.
- Accessing the Permanent Transit Fund starting in 2024 will help TransLink to get started on implementing the first phase of TransLink’s Access for Everyone plan outlined above. With an ambitious plan, it is imperative that we get started now to identify sustainable sources of funding that will support future expansion. A number of factors make this shift necessary:
- Fuel tax revenue is declining faster than expected due to adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
- Regressive sources such as property tax are not equitable and put pressure on the cost of living.
- There is limited capacity for transit users to absorb fare increases, especially when considering the need to make transit an attractive alternative to cars and the ongoing affordability challenge in Canada’s big cities.
- There is a need to act quickly to address the climate emergency and affordability crises.
- TransLink’s existing revenue sources mean that new services cannot be ramped up quickly enough to meet the targeted needs, without additional funding from federal and provincial governments.
- TransLink and the Mayors’ Council welcomes the Government of British Columbia’s commitment to work in partnership to modernize the transit funding model to support TransLink’s continued financial recovery and ensure resources will be available to expand the network as Metro Vancouver’s population grows. Only new approaches, with all governments working together in innovative ways, will allow us collectively to achieve the objectives described in Metro Vancouver’s long-range transportation plan, Transport 2050.
- Bringing all levels of government together to chart a new path for funding public transit, including how to fund the higher operating costs of a fast-action bus-based approach, will be essential for meeting Canada’s GHG reduction targets and keeping life affordable for urban communities. Transit systems like TransLink are ready get to work, together with our senior government partners.